At the end of a year in which betting operators in the UK have pledged to behave with a greater social responsibility, particularly around marketing, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have released a report claiming that underage viewership numbers of gambling advertisements on television is in decline. The report, released on Wednesday, centered on all age restricted adverts, including gambling, junk food and alcohol and covered the period spanning 2008 to 2017.
In 2008, kids in the UK were exposed to 2.2 gambling ads per week which, in the following decade until 2018, had jumped to 3.2 gambling commercials per week, making up 2.2% of all the broadcast ads children saw last year. 2008 being the year in which the UK government relaxed legalities surrounding the marketing of sports betting and online casino products. The number of ads being exposed to kids each week peaked in 2013 at 4.4.
Following 2013’s peak, the UK government imposed new rules that restricted ads to firms exclusively licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), after which the viewing numbers declined steadily. In fact, from 2008’s peak, exposure to gambling ads designed for adults fell from 38.6% in 2008 to 20.4% in 2018.
Changing TV Habits
One important factor for the betting operators to take into account, however, is the changing consumption habits of modern day content. While self-imposed moves from within the gaming industry are to be applauded, there is little doubt that, with viewing habits shifting to streaming platforms and less live TV being watched as scheduled, child exposure to age restricted commercials has been curbed organically.
Gambling ads accounted for up 2.2% of all adverts that children saw in in 2018, a figure actually up by 0.2% on the preceding decade. On average, children saw around one gambling advert for every five seen by adults in those years. Of those gambling adverts, the majority exposed to young audiences were for bingo, lotteries and scratchcards.
According to ASA;
“This indicates the rate of decline in children’s exposure to all TV ads between those years is now slightly greater than the rate of reduction of children’s exposure to gambling ads within the same period. As noted in the previous exposure report, the scheduling rules for gambling advertising on TV have not changed over the years covered by the report.
Whilst other factors, for example changes in marketing spend and behaviour, are likely to have accounted for the reduction in children’s exposure to TV ads for gambling between 2013 and 2017, we are confident that the scheduling rules continue to help limit children’s exposure to the extent that they ban gambling ads in children’s programmes and programmes of particular appeal to under-18s.”
This summer, a voluntary “whistle to whistle” ban on gambling adverts during live televised sport came into effect. Timed officially for August’s opening of the new football season, football being the most wagered on sport in world betting, Cricket’s Ashes series between England and Australia became the first major UK sporting event in over ten years subjected to such restrictions.
Back in February, it was announced that adverts for gambling would no longer be allowed to appear on websites or computer games that are popular with children. However, this year also saw 32Red’s sponsored signing of Wayne Rooney’s move to Derby County and Paddy Power’s “Save Our Shirt campaign” where they tricked authorities into believing that they were sponsoring Huddersfield Town FC, only to remove their oversized logo from the jersey altogether at the last minute making it nothing more than a “safer gambling” publicity stunt which pleased and outraged watchdogs and onlookers in equal measure.